Russia is an influential strategic player in northeast Asia and a major stakeholder in Korea since the late 19th century. The Soviet Union was responsible for the establishment of the DPRK some 70 years ago, and since that time, Russia amassed a wealth of experience and contacts in its relations with the Kim dynasty and provides support — from energy exports to protection against the more extreme sanctions policies sought by Washington — that are vital to the political well-being of the regime. Based on this long-term relationship, Russia is well-positioned to contribute to efforts to restrain Pyongyang’s weapons programs.
The United States and China have monopolized dealings with Pyongyang and Russia hasn’t figured importantly in U.S. strategic calculations on the Korean nuclear issue. China is a powerful economic actor that effectively controls the North’s external trade sector, but the PRC has been reluctant to use the full weight of its leverage to pressure Pyongyang fearing the destabilizing consequences of the regime’s collapse.